Slick Swedish prospect signs with Flames

RANDY SPORTAK

, Last Updated: 7:32 AM ET

Mikael Backlund, one of the Calgary Flames top prospects, took a big step closer to his NHL dreams yesterday.

The centre chosen in the first round of the 2007 draft was signed to a three-year, entry-level contract.

"Mikael is one of the best 18-year-old centres in the world, and we are pleased that we have been able to retain him under contract," Flames GM Darryl Sutter said in a statement. "He demonstrated at the world junior championships that he is in an elite class.

"I look forward to getting him here for development camp in July and main camp in the fall. Having both Mikael and John Negrin from last year's draft signed bodes well for us."

Backlund, who turned 19 last month, inked a deal that calls for a maximum of US$875,000 per season, provided he plays pro in North America.

After a slow start to his season with Vasteras of Sweden's Allsvenskan, the division below the country's top league, the 6-ft., 194-lb. centre returned from the world juniors with renewed confidence and finished the regular season with nine goals and four assists in 34 games. He led Vasteras in scoring during the playoffs with six goals and three assists in 14 games.

Backlund could remain in Sweden next season, but can play for the Flames, the AHL affiliate in Quad City or the WHL. He was drafted by Kelowna in last year's European Draft.

The Flames have less than a month to sign 2006 draft choices they want to keep in the fold. The list includes centre Hugo Carpentier, right winger Juuso Puustinen, who recently signed a deal to play in Finland, left winger Devin Didiomete and forward Per Jonsson.


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